AND THAT'S THE WAY IT ISN'T... Cops in New York seized the opportunity provided by the senseless murder of Run-D.M.C.'s Jam Master Jay to declare the dawn of a new "hip-hop war" that allows them to put rappers under surveillance. There was no evidence of such a war, as the police eventually had to admit, and even if there were, the last people to be involved in it would be Run-D.M.C., consistent apostles of peace.
The minute it was discovered that one of the D.C. snipers came from Jamaica, MSNBC produced a shrink to equate the murder spree with the plot of the reggae film, The Harder They Come. Yet no one at MSNBC has pointed out that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Ridge, Ashcroft and Rice are crafting a lame remake of The Magnificent Seven.
The snipers' messages contained a common slang phrase (used by Ice-T in New Jack City, for instance), so U.S.A. Today rushed in a pundit who "revealed" a connection to the 5 Percent Nation, a Nation of Islam offshoot that's influenced certain rappers. Media coverage portrays the 5%ers as villainous thugs. In fact, the 5%ers are best known for peaceful porch step philosophizing.
As Davey D (www.daveyd.com) points out, "police departments all over the country have been collecting and now have very detailed dossiers of rap artists and who they're affiliated with. From New York City, which actually has a 'rap task force' to Oakland to Mountain View, California, where the police chief sits down and determines what rap acts are allowed and not allowed to perform..." New York cops declared the Zulu Nation, of Afrika Bambaataa fame, a "gang," then arrested 34 of its members for tutoring students in a Staten Island park, suddenly declaring it illegal for more than 20 people to gather in a public park.
The "war on terror" features FBI interrogation and surveillance of hiphop activists and accusations that suicide bombers recite 2Pac lyrics. Yet, as Davey D also points out, "Let's roll" came out of the mouth of DC rapper Doug Lazy California's Chill EP long before it came out of Flight 93, but nobody gives hip-hop credit for that.
This story stretches back to the 1989 arrests of five Harlem teenagers for
raping and beating a jogger in New York's Central Park. According to
the cops, these kids had been in the park "wilding," alleged rap jargon for a vandalism spree derived from Tone-Loc's "Wild Thing." In reality, the term "wilding" came only out of the mouths of cops and the media.
In reality, someone else raped and battered the jogger--that person confessed and the DNA confirmed the confession six months ago. The forensic evidence used to convict the kids was unquestionably bogus. The cops coerced their confessions, as the kids and their families said all along. The state denied one of the police victims parole for 13 years because he refused to deny he'd been framed.
The ongoing vilification of poor young people and especially minority youth began so far back that even Birth of a Nation, another "wilding" fantasy, is but a midterm marker of its progress. Meanwhile, E.R. Shipp, a black columnist for the New York Daily News, argued that the convictions represent an acceptable error because the kids must have been out there doing something wrong. Shipp's words are important because they establish that this war isn't simply white on black. It's also privileged on poor, a category that cuts across racial lines.
That's why Eminem has two hit albums right now.